Mats delivered a killer speech in the city he plied his trade so magnificently for 13 seasons, dedicating his HHOF induction to everyone who supported him throughout his career:
I would first like to thank LeafsWire for adding me to their team, and apologize that my first post has to come on the coat tails on this of all nights.
The script was set for the perfect night. Coming off back to back losses and at risk of falling out of the 8th and final playoff spot, the Leafs were set to face their arch-rival ‘Habitants’, and arguably the greatest Leaf of all time was to have his number raised to the rafters. What a night it would be. The Leafs would be inspired by their former captain’s prescence, and the magic of the night would overcome them. They would break their slump and beat the Canadiens to a pulp.
Everything started beautifully, Mats shed some tears, and the crowd stood and cheered and time seemed to stand still for that historic moment. Everything was perfect… and then the game started. Well, I guess someone forgot to mention that to the Leafs, who seemed to be taking part in an optional pre-game skate. It might have been easier if Dion Phaneuf had just bent over after he somehow won the ceremonial faceoff, and took one for the team, rather than having our logo sodomized for 60 minutes.
The Leafs just could not get any momentum going, much like a ‘retarded hamster’ falling off his wheel. Every shot they took seemed to get blocked in front or float over to Carey Price like an oversized beach ball. Our only good chances of the game came from Phil Kessel, who unfortunately forgot how to raise the puck again, which has been known to happen from time to time. Not everything was negative however. On the bright side Tie Domi seemed to be sporting a phenomenal spray tan, and Nikolai Kulemin hit two posts…with one shot!! Even our old friend Mr. Bryan “He shoots he scores! Oh wait that’s our net!” McCabe managed to pass through the threshold of the ACC without dematerializing, which was a miracle in and upon itself.
Then things continued to get worse, and after the 4th goal I’m pretty sure I even saw Wendel heading down to the dressing room to lace em up, before being told he wasn’t on the roster for the nights game. This was a relief for PK Subban who did not realize how close he came to being pummeled, but felt a strange twinge in his heart when Clark’s moustache clenched its fist.
After that …’display’, the Leafs need to get their game into gear and come out ready to beat up on Calgary or risk going the way of Dorothy and falling deeper into the rabbit hole. Until then Leafs Nation, try and get your hands on one of those mind wiping devices from Men in Black (I found a pretty good deal on eBay) and forget this ever happened. Goodnight, and don’t watch SportsCentre tomorrow, it will only bring grief and despair.
After a couple solid, albeit one nerve-racking, wins to start the season, the Maple Leafs appear to have some swagger that hasn’t been seen since Mats Sundin flanked Jonas Hoglund and Mikael Renberg a decade ago. Optimism is at an all time high throughout Leaf nation as the team gets through a relatively easy opening couple weeks of the season. The questions never seem to end, however, and with the Leafs quality depth (that’s not an oxymoron anymore!) as the Leafs get healthier and less-suspended there is a shortage of roster spots and ice time for players. It appears that amongst all speculation that Brian Burke is hovering around the trigger on a potential trade, but is it really necessary right now? Let’s break this down.
Up front is the primary concern as Clarke MacArthur comes back from his suspension, Nazem Kadri‘s knee is healing quicker than initially speculated, and it would be reasonable to assume we’ll see a Tim Connolly appearance sometime in the next week and a half. Combine that with the unexpected recovery and quality play from Matthew Lombardi and the Leafs have a shocking number of centres available. So where do you put them all? Firstly, Kadri has to start in the minors as Matt Frattin‘s solid two-way play has earned him the right to stay with Leafs for now. It can’t hurt Naz to get up to speed with the Marlies, get big time minutes, work on his defensive game and if he truly dominates the AHL then that will show he needs to be in the NHL. At that point, whether it be a few weeks or a few months, Burke has a better idea to get better trade value from other teams. Very rarely will teams make a substantial deal at this point in the season. This of course only goes with the assumption that the team isn’t struggling and in need of a shake-up, but with the team’s play thus far it’s hard to imagine that there isn’t a combination of lines with this current group that can’t do well enough.
Let’s face it, Connolly likely won’t be the iron man once he heals up from his flavour of the month injury and it wouldn’t be smart to have Lombardi play in every game as the season wears on. Combine that with responsible play of Tyler Bozak, and you have three centres that are capable of playing the pivot between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul or Frattin and Colby Armstrong. Any combination of those sets of wingers with those centres has some offensive upside with defensive capability. It’s also important to recognize that the Leafs now have a quality fourth line in more of a Brian Burke mold. Jay Rosehill and Colton Orr are excellent for spot starts when toughness is needed, and a line of David Steckel – Philippe Dupuis - Mike Brown has an excellent balance. Since MacArthur counts towards a roster spot despite being suspended, that requires only one roster move to make room for Connolly when he’s healthy. When that happens, it would be smart to send down Rosehill and carry those extra centres. This gives good options to match up the line-up on a nightly basis depending on the opponent, as well as gives the opporunity for some more injury prone players to rest for a night if they’re banged up.
On the defensive side, it’s nice to see Toronto finally have a glut of NHL-ready defencemen. Keith Aulie was already sent down to the Marlies to make room for stand-out Jake Gardiner; Mike Komiserek for all purposes hasn’t been terrible; Cody Franson is a big mobile, puck mover who can run a secondary powerplay unit; and Carl Gunnarson has been nothing short of solid. While I agree Aulie deserves to be with the big club after a great debut last season, letting him earn his way back on to the Leafs roster is the best bet. It’s not a bad thing to let the likes of Komi and Gunnar play since it will only boost their trade value if they play well. If not, it’s good to know there are guys ready to answer the call if a shake up is needed. And let’s not forget injuries happen and when they strike the Leafs blue line, we’ll be thankful for this depth.
At this point, Ron Wilson has many options to put a line-up together that can compete with any team in the league on any given night. This capability injects some excitement that hasn’t been found in nearly a decade since the Leafs last made the playoffs.